THERE were no elections at last week’s Limerick IFA AGM in the Woodlands but there was much to discuss.
In a wide ranging address, Limerick IFA chairman Shay Galvin touched on Brexit, CAP, climate change and, of course, the election. Honorary IFA life membership was presented to the wonderful Mary Ita Keane, Shanagolden, for her outstanding, loyal and long service. See more on that next week.
Mr Galvin said the general election delivered a result unlike any in the history of the State.
“Only three seats separate the three largest parties. From the moment the election was called, IFA lobbied candidates from every party on the importance of agriculture to Ireland. It is critical that we get an effective Government up and running as issues such as CAP, Brexit and climate change need immediate attention,” said Mr Galvin.
For the last 42 months we have been living under the permanent cloud of Brexit, he said, which “brought uncertainty to trade of our food products between Ireland and our most significant export market”.
“Currency fluctuations and the ongoing threat of a hard Brexit for much of 2019 meant that farmers had to cope with unstable and unviable prices. What the future trading relationship will look like is anybody’s guess, but what is certain is that it will have significant repercussions on our sector.
He pointed out that the bulk of exported produce travels through the UK and any restrictions will add extra costs and perishability issues with fresh food. The IFA has lobbied that funds need to be put in place to insulate farmers against this. “Farmers cannot bear the financial brunt of political decisions,” said Mr Galvin.
“The UK’s transition period is due to last until December 31, 2020. During this period, the UK will remain in both the EU customs union and single market. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated he will not seek an extension to the transition. This means there is less than a year to reach agreement on the future trading relationship - an exceptionally challenging timeline.”
Mr Galvin said CAP which was introduced to protect farmers who produce high quality food for the EU population from price volatility and the IFA will “not tolerate any cut in the CAP Budget”.
He said farmers are being unfairly targeted in this country for climate change when “we are one of the most efficient milk and beef producers in the world”.
“Farmers are the only sector which sequesters its emissions through our grassland, hedgerows, trees and crops, yet we receive no credit for this. Additionally, the way that methane emissions from the national herd are currently accounted for is not appropriate.
“No other sector is as engaged in climate action, with over 250,000 carbon assessments now completed using the Bord Bia and Teagasc carbon navigator, across 130,000 farm families. However, farmers are getting increasingly frustrated that they are being scapegoated based on incomplete calculations, which is leading to them being wrongly vilified.”
Since the Brexit vote in 2016, beef price has struggled. He says IFA campaigned for and secured the €100 million BEAM scheme and continue to lobby for a BEAM 2 scheme to cover losses since May 12.
“IFA is pushing hard for an independent food retail regulator with power to tackle unfair trading practices with the intention of getting more money back to the primary producer. IFA will continue to defend farmers and tell the truth about our carbon efficient, animal friendly farming practices and our willingness to embrace further actions which will reduce emissions, if supports are put in place to help us do this,” he concluded.